How to Notify Patients When Closing or Leaving a Practice
Finding a new provider can be a stressful process for patients. Therefore, when leaving or closing a practice it is essential that you provide patients with ample time to find a new doctor/practice.
Posted in Risk Management on Thursday, September 1, 2016
If you are closing or leaving a practice, it is important to remember that patients often need ample time to find a new doctor and/or practice.
To avoid allegations of abandonment, a serious malpractice risk, and to assure continuity of care, you should provide patients with a minimum 60-90 day notice before closing or leaving a practice.
In order to demonstrate that you made a reasonable effort to reach patients and inform them of the situation, you should consider:
- Placing a notice in a highly visible area of your waiting room.
- Placing 2-3 ads in your local newspaper(s). Consider placing the ads a month apart.
- Discussing the closing with each patient personally when possible.
- Having staff inform patients calling for appointments of the expected closing date.
- Handing patients a written notice when possible.
- Including an announcement of the closing in your invoices.
- Sending written letters of notification to all of the patients you have seen in the past two years. For patients who are classified as “high risk” you may want to consider sending their letter via certified mail, return receipt requested. These letters should:
- Discuss the importance of continued medical care.
- Advise the patient as to where they can receive emergency care.
- Advise the patient on how a copy of their medical records can be obtained both during the transition period and after the practice has closed.
- Assist patients in finding another provider by offering contact information for your local medical society and/or hospital physician referral center. Helping a patient find another provider willing to assume care can help you avoid allegations of abandonment.
- State the closing date and last day you will be available for emergency care.
- Be documented in each patient’s chart.
Additionally, do not accept new patients during this time and consider restricting non-emergent appointments. In other words, do not begin treatments that cannot be completed prior to the closing date of your practice.
Remember, finding a new provider can be stressful and time consuming for patients. By utilizing the tips above, you can help ensure a smoother transition process along with limiting your risk exposure.